On Friday afternoon, Trump signed an executive order indefinitely barring Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspending all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocking all citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Even American citizens are being detained as they arrive at airports all over the nation on flights from the Middle East.
Hate must be exposed and denounced.
Islamophobia is at an all time high – and so is the support of our Muslim brothers and sisters.
I started a movement to wear a headscarf to the airport every time I flew after careful conversation with a Muslim friend and mentor. Though she does not speak for all Muslims, she loved the idea of non-Muslim allies wearing a headscarf to the airport in order to stand in solidarity with Muslim men and women who are often discriminated against by TSA. The idea behind the movement is to dilute discrimination against Muslim people by making it harder for TSA agents to pick them out of a crowd. Hijabs are a very visual marker of Islam, and those who have chosen to wear it do so out of a religious belief that should be honored. Was America not founded on the freedom to practice whatever religion you want to? Did our settlers not flee Europe because of religious prosecution?
I have a medical condition that – without makeup – is pretty obvious. Though my skin is White – I know what it’s like to be treated differently because of the way that you look. I can’t and won’t ever compare the religious persecution of Muslims to an embarrassing medical condition – but my medical condition contributes to my understanding of discrimination based on one’s visual representation.
Many people have opened a dialogue with me for choosing this type of activism, which is great, I want to generate discussion. Others have chastised me for being a “White feminist” or an “attention whore.”
In fact, just yesterday an opinion piece was posted online about why wearing a hijab is, in fact, not the right way to proceed, and I agree with many of it’s points. But I also feel the need to defend my actions in hopes to inspire others to act as well.
Some important points:
- My only goal when I wear my headscarf is to dilute discrimination.
- I don’t call it a “hijab,” I call it a “headscarf,” because I am not a practicing Muslim.
- Anyone that asks if I AM Muslim, I say no.
During the most recent protests of Trump’s executive order at the Los Angeles International Airport, I wrapped the American flag around my head and wore it as a headscarf to show solidarity. (A few people are upset I used an American flag – to them I say poo poo. I have nothing but love for my country, but I will not worship a symbol of it’s current state of oppression. Or ever, really, it’s just a flag. I’ll wear it around my waist next time I’m volunteering at the VA – ok?)
The message I wanted to send was:
“We are all Muslim today.”
And just as I’ve done at Black Lives Matter protests, when I was asked by a reporter for a statement – I told him I was a non-Muslim ally and deferred to the voices that mattered.
As an activist and a journalist it has always been my main goal to make people care about things that are important – to educate through entertainment. I feel it’s my responsibility as a White woman to use my privilege to lift up the voices of those more marginalized than I am – and that’s what I was trying to do here. If any Muslim didn’t feel safe enough to attend the protests, I wanted to stand for them. If any Muslim didn’t feel like they were able to speak out – I wanted to speak for them.
My mentor contacted me after the protests and told me how grateful and happy she was to see such a diverse group of people at the airport in support of her and her community, because you expect Muslims to show up, but not necessarily everyone else. She reminded me just how rough Muslim Americans have had it since 9/11 and inspired me to go to the next protest without any headscarf at all because my presence as an ally is more important to her and I respect that – regardless of the protest’s location.
February 1st is World Hijab Day – and while it’s impossible to be able to experience the discrimination that Muslims encounter throughout their life in just one day – it could be an interesting opportunity for you to reach out to a Muslim friend and start a discussion. If you feel uncomfortable at any point throughout the day – feel free to take it off – but keep in mind your Muslim sisters who cannot do the same as easily. Perhaps, if nothing else, this activity will stimulate a growing sense of empathy from people who are different from you.
Here’s how to wear a hijab:
If you participate – send me a picture of you wearing your hijab and let’s start a discussion! While you’re at it -donate to the cause, I did: www.cair.com
No one’s feminism is perfect – we are all learning and growing and changing together. It’s important to note that while wearing a headscarf in solidarity is a great first step – it should not be the only step you take to fight Islamophobia.
Take a moment to send a few letters of love and support to your local mosques. You can get their addresses with a simple “mosques near me” Google search.
You can (and should) also take some time to volunteer in the Muslim community. VolunteerMatch.org is a great place to find local community that offer education and service opportunities.